The loyalty field has shifted a lot for US flyers over the last few years. These changes have seen airlines make earning elite status more difficult with spending requirements and, in return, have not given as much to their elites while they play around with pricing for travel. As a result, this type of scenario can happen – and it is a real shame for elite flyers who have given their loyalty to their particular airline.
Getting a Better Seat than a Delta Diamond Elite for $70
From a Former Delta Diamond
When Delta first rolled out their Diamond elite status several years ago, I was a charter member and held the status for a couple of years before slowly slipping down the elite ranks by dropping to Platinum before going to Gold (and then leaving Delta altogether).
I rarely have the opportunity to fly Delta anymore but for short regional hops. I have written before that, when I am checking luggage, buying the first class fare is actually a much better deal than buying economy and paying for bags! So, I have done that in the past.
When I used to be a Diamond, I remember how it was pretty much a sure thing that I was going to be getting an upgrade. I think I may have only missed a couple of upgrades as a Diamond and even got operational upgrades to business on some international routes.
First Class Monetization
That has all changed over the last couple/few years with the onslaught of first-class monetization, the practice of selling first class/business class as an upsell to customers at the time of ticketing or even check-in at a reduced cost from the regular first class price. I know many Delta elite flyers that will not purchase those since these are seats that should be included for them as complimentary upgrades, due to their status, and the thought of paying for them is really not great.
Is It Worth It To Upgrade?
For me, I weigh the situation as to whether it is a good deal for me to do that upgrade. On a recent 2 hour and 20 minute flight, an offer of $70 was made. Since I was checking a bag that ended up actually weighing over the 50lbs (which I realized after I packed more things at my first destination) and knew I would be paying at least for one bag but likely two or maybe an overweight single, it was a good deal for me to spring for a $70 upgrade. With the first checked bag costing $25 and the second $35, that makes the $70 cost pretty much worth it right there!
Of course, I also got priority check-in, boarding, and a nicer seat – basically for free since I would have had to pay for the bags! Why not, right?
The Value of an Elite Member’s Loyalty to Delta
The crazy thing about this is that there were two Delta Diamond members who were near me at boarding and talking about how it looked like they were going to miss their upgrade. Yes, that’s right – for a $70 upcharge, I would be able to get a seat in first class while two Delta Diamond elite members (Delta’s highest elite tier) would be sitting behind the curtain.
This is just crazy. The amount of loyalty I show to Delta is like less than nothing (when you see how often I fly them and what I pay to do that). What is crazy about this is that it seems that $70 is worth more to Delta than rewarding their top elite members who likely pay a minimum of 100 times that in a year!
As a non-elite member with Delta, this type of behavior makes me just sit back and shake my head. If I were seeking out an airline to give loyalty to, why would I feel compelled to give that loyalty to Delta? Yes, you can get some nice perks as a top elite like the valuable upgrade coupons for use throughout the Delta system, the occasional pickup by a Porsche on short connections, free refund of award tickets, and some other nice perks – but Delta still seats you in the back because they can sell a first class seat upgrade for $70 to someone like me!
The US airline elite system has pretty much been about upgrades for years before this and I am sure that the move to the first class monetization model over the last couple/few years has cost them some elites who dislike having to pay like everyone else or hope that Delta releases some of those seats into the upgrade pool.
Are you a Delta elite flyer? How has your upgrade percentage been in 2017?
Featured image courtesy of Delta